The date was June 24, 1961. They gazed deeply into each other’s eyes and solemnly promised to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, for as long as they both shall live. For two just-turned-19 year olds, that was quite a promise. Would the love they felt for each other now be just as strong 20 years from now, 35 years from now, 50 years from now?
Later that day, they smiled when they heard on the radio that the Chicago White Sox had beaten the Washington Senators. It was a good omen for the two White Sox fans. The radio was always on in their home, playing the Top 20 of 1961, an eclectic mix: Travelin’ Man by Ricky Nelson, Big Bad John by Jimmy Dean, and The Lion Sleeps Tonight by The Tokens. They saw West Side Story in the movie theater and wished they could scrape together enough money to see it again. They watched the debut of The Wide World of Sports on their tiny black and white TV, cringing together as that poor skier relived “the agony of defeat” week after week. They were saddened by the passing of Gary Cooper and Chico Marx.
In 1962, they welcomed their first child, a daughter. Life tumbled along faster after that. Their second daughter was born in 1968. Sesame Street debuted and if the motley Cookie Monster doll was forgotten, they went back home to get him. They tag-teamed, working together to parent the two little girls as well as they knew how. They agonized over measles and the flu, and wondered how they were going to pay for the shoes that rapidly growing little feet require. They relied on each other more than ever.
The mid-1970’s brought the dreaded “C” word into their home. Cancer. How could she have cancer at only 36? She fought it with everything she had in her. She would be there for her daughters. She would live to see her grandchildren. And she would be there for him; that was important. He needed her and loved her even more than he had in 1961. She was a survivor.
The girls graduated from high school, graduated from college, got married and moved away. They traveled as often as they could to see their grandchildren, vowing to make sure those children knew who their grandparents were and knew that they loved them. Christmases were joyful; the whole family gathered to celebrate being together.
It was hard when the last of the older generation – his mother in 1999 and her father in 2003 – passed away. They remarked to each other that they were now the oldest generation, and wasn’t that strange. How were they supposed to take on the mantle of the wise elder for the next generations when they often felt as if they were still winging it day by day?
June 24, 2011 is their 50th wedding anniversary. They had worked, fought, cried, smiled, laughed, supported and loved each other for 50 years. They looked around the table at their daughters, sons-in-law, and grandchildren and were proud of all they had accomplished. Their 50 year anniversary was as good a place as any to pause and reflect on the past.
But dwelling on the past wasn’t in their nature. Tomorrow, she wanted to go shopping with her daughters and granddaughter. They had a trip to France planned for the fall, and she needed some new clothes to take. After the photo safari in Africa last year, and dancing with the natives on Papua New Guinea the year before, she had wanted to go someplace more relaxing this year. They smiled at each other across the table. The first fifty years of marriage had been rich and fulfilling; what would the next 50 bring?
Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad. I love you both.